Donald Trump: Political Firebrand
In 2001 author, journalist Christopher Hitchens published a book called The Trial of Henry Kissinger. In this text Hitchens played the role of prosecutor and examined the alleged war crimes of US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. American politics is often seen as the playground of controversial figures. It is said that you can do things and say things in America that could not be said anywhere else in the world, largely because there will always be one group that supports you.
In this political landscape dynastic leaders, business tycoons, Christian fundamentalists, white supremacists and movie stars (amongst many others) have all risen to the elite of American politics in some form or another. Henry Kissinger may not have been a controversial figure in terms of his beliefs or background, but his actions were, and have led many, including Hitchens, to speak out against him in the strongest of terms. Yet, Kissinger remains an eminent and globally respected statesman, such is the paradox of American politics.
The newest poster-boy for political controversy is Donald Trump, the billionaire business mogul and advocate for the conservative right in America. In a Presidential campaign that has been dogged by controversy on both sides of the political divide, no-one has drawn as much criticism or indeed garnered as much popular support as Donald Trump.
But, is this controversy deserved? This is where I attempt my best Hitchens imitation and put Trump on trial to not only emphasize why the controversy is so extensive but to explain the dangers of electing a man like Donald Trump.
So what ‘charges’ could one levy at Donald Trump? There are accusations of racism, Islamophobia, sexism and inciting hatred, all levied by an American media and American people that have sought to cut the lead of Mr Trump in the polls. Studying the speeches, the policies and the campaign launched by Trump there appears to be evidence to back up these accusations.
The very foundations of the American state lie in the mass migration of populations. The British, French, Spanish, Germans, Italians, Irish, Russians, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Nigerians, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans (the list is potentially endless) all moved, in waves, to America. They chases the American dream and sought to make a new life. However, white America has dominated for centuries and in the Donald Trump campaign this promotion of the ‘white’ American Dream is evident.
At the third Republican debate, in Oct 2015, Trump argued that he would build a wall that would control population movement between Mexico and the USA. This policy is not particularly new (a wall already exists between the two nations) but it was the rhetoric Trump used that demonstrated his blatant racism. He called the Mexican leaders cunning (painting them as manipulators who make a mockery of American politicians). He called migrants drug dealers and, most inflammatory and offensive, he called migrants rapists, tarnishing an entire nation in one sentence.
This language is not the language of a man willing to embrace one of America’s most important partners or indeed the vast Latino population that live in America. This is the language of a man whose inner prejudices against a nation and a race were displayed live on TV. He played to the stereotypes that many Americans support and, instead of reconciliation, promoted division.
Not content with keeping out just the Mexicans, Trump’s greatest controversy came with his declaration that, if he became President, he would ban all Muslims from entering the USA until the nation had sorted out its ‘Muslim problem’. This policy is one of the most extreme proposals ever made by an American Presidential hopeful. It obviously plays on the fear of fundamental Islam in the wake of numerous attacks fueled by Islamic State, but it is a policy of division that encourages scare-mongering, segregation, social divisions and racially motivated hatred.
It assumes that all Islam is one homogeneous community and ignores the disparity between the fundamental groups that preach hatred and violence and ignore the basic understanding of Islam, and the ordinary Muslims who have nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism and reject their ideology.
It is a policy, that in America, should bring back memories of the very worst extremes of segregated America, in which black and white citizens lived separate lives. It also recalls the Apartheid regime of 20th Century South Africa and, do not think otherwise, Trump’s America would reflect that regime more closely that it would represent the modern, multi-cultural America.
It is a policy filled with hate, fear and ignorance. Where Obama’s 2008 campaign was one that reached out to every community in America, promoting inclusion and progress, Trump’s has reached out to the conservative right of America, a group who have long rejected progression in favour of regression.
Trump’s racism and Islamophobia are appalling evidence of a man deeply prejudiced against the world. however there is a belief that these are part of a wider policy to court the conservative right and distinguish himself from his Republican rivals, i.e. he may not truly believe in this grand ideological approaches (he just knows what works). However, one things that has shone throughout his campaign and cannot appeal to any voter is his sexism.
Throughout his entire career sexism has been a theme. He sees women as gold-diggers, going after all the money they can get (Trump: The Art of the Comeback, 1997) and argues that women will only succeed if they are attractive i (a belief he has applied to newsreaders, Apprentice candidates and actresses). For those women who confront him, stand up to him or disagree with him he levies disgusting and vicious sexist attacks (most notably of late is his attack on Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly, who was conducting one of the early GOP debates, when he branded her a bimbo and questioned why she had been allowed to be involved in the debate).
This sexism has not been part of a new political strategy to court America, it is ingrained into the very fabric of Trump’s personality. This is a man who wants to lead America, but does not treat 50% of the population with the respect they deserve and should expect from their leaders. Women you deserve more from a man who claims to represent you.
Donald Trump is a man who sees the world simply as a reflection of his own values and beliefs, he does not see the intrinsic value in diversity. He does recognise the truth worth of women in society, in Latino’s coming to America or the Muslims who have helped to build America.
Instead of progress and reconciliation between communities, he has made it a political ambition to follow a policy of division. He has sought to keep out those who do not fit in with his vision of contemporary America, be they a different race, a different religion or indeed just an individual who does not support his version of politics. He has seen those that would protest against him removed from his presence and he has viciously attacked any individual or group that has come up against him, from his political rival Hillary Clinton to the UK government (who debated the idea of banning him from our shores).
This is a man whose entire political edifice is built on the pursuit of exclusion and on the pursuit of creating a America molded to his vision. This policy has been replicated by many individuals over the course of the last decade and never has that ended well for the people targeted. In his policies he legitimises the wrongs so many of us in the Western world have fought hard against and after years of trying to push against extremes of ideology and dogma; after years of promoting inclusion, America risks putting forward a candidate for the world’s most important job who would see all this progress undone.
The dangers of supporting Donald Trump are clear cut and yet people flock to a man who has broken the mold. My only hope comes from a belief that common sense, the value of people and community and, critically, tolerance prevail in a election that will shape modern America.